Thursday, September 23

Idols ready to set sail amid Covid gloom in Kumartuli

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Fumigated and packed, four Durga idols will start their journey from Kumartuli to Australia, US, Germany and Canada this week. Even as the artisans’ hub is staring at unprecedented loss after large-scale cancellations from organizers abroad, 11 idols have been sold and are ready to be exported to various corners of the world. Some of them will be sent when international flights resume.

Every year, the light-weight, fiberglass-made idols usually begin their overseas journeys in April. But with the lockdown that came into force in March started coming the bad news. Several organizers from various countries started informing that the festivities had been called off because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Kaushik Ghosh, whose family is the largest exporter of Durga idols from Kumartuli, said: “We have been making idols exclusively for NRIs since 2006. But the virus has made this our worst year so far. I had 34 orders this year. After cancellations, I have 11 now.”

Ghosh’s first overseas idol was scheduled to leave on Wednesday. It will take a month to reach Melbourne. The other three will travel to North Carolina, Frankfurt and Vancouver by the end of this week. The next batch of consignment will go to Detroit and Kansas City in the US and London in the UK. “We have been sanitizing the idols while making them. And then the courier company came and fumigated the idols, by drilling a hole in the crates,” said Ghosh, whose father and veteran artisan Amarnath Ghosh was a pioneer in exporting idols.

A 6ft fiberglass idol, along with its wooden packing case and embellishments, weighs around 200-250kg and is easily transportable. It is wrapped carefully in bubble sheets and packed in the wooden crates that have “fragile” written on it. “We take the last order at least 45 days before Durga Puja. Hopefully, things will improve by August,” said Ghosh. Around 200 Durga idols are shipped abroad every year.

Covid-19 has not only dealt a blow to the exports but has also affected the entire Kumartuli’s prospects. “By this time, clay idols are half done, but with no labourers during lockdown, not much work has started this year,” a member of Kumartuli Idolmakers’ Association said. Many Kolkata Puja organizers who had ordered verbally are reluctant to seal the deals, preferring to wait and watch before ordering idols. Only 15% puja committees have confirmed bookings so far, said A K Pal, an artisan.


Source: Times of India

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